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"Touring was an adventure," remembers Cerati. "In these countries even the minimum infrastructure for producing a rock concert didn't exist. The American music that people heard on the radio had very little resemblance to what they could produce in their own country. There were bands, but the mechanisms didn't exist to consolidate a scene. What we did was remove that veil. We proved that it could be done. And once the record industry saw our success, they came running behind to find other groups that sounded like us.
"People say that we cleared the path for Latin rock," he continues. "When we traveled outside of Argentina for the first time, we didn't know what Latin rock was. We knew the music that was being played in Argentina, we knew there were groups singing in Spanish, but we didn't imagine Latin rock as a product. Some record people think of Latin rock as an alternative sound. To me it's just about quality music. It doesn't matter if you sing it in Spanish or English. It's the same thing."
With their popularity established, the band was free to take even greater artistic risks. Their 1988 album Doble Vida (Double Life) was cut in New York City with producer Carlos Alomar, David Bowie's long-time guitarist/songwriting collaborator. The album's complex arrangements and postpunk sound was a dramatic departure from the group's previous Top 40 hits, yet 25,000 people attended a Buenos Aires concert promoting the release, during which Alomar joined the band on stage.
Sueno Stereo, the group's first album in three years and their first for BMG Latin, arrives after a hiatus in which each musician pursued solo projects. Like Doble Vida, it finds the band working new sonic territory. This time, however, they're dabbling in the techno textures of ambient trance music, experimenting with Sgt. Pepper's psychedelia, and burying Cerati's vocals beneath layers of echo and reverb. It's their most experimental album yet -- not exactly an easy listen. Cerati acknowledges that it might alienate some of the band's fans, but he's not worried. "You start to become a classic by virtue of all the people who've grown up with your music," he says. "And that gives you some freedom. We take advantage of Soda Stereo's name to do what we want."
Soda Stereo's upcoming show at the Knight Center is the last date of a short American tour that also included stops in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. While the band has played clubs in those cities before, they've previously avoided Miami, although their 1990 album Cancion Animal (Savage Song) was mixed here at Criteria Studios. "It always seemed so behind the times," Cerati says of the city. "The interesting thing is that Miami's changed a lot. Now there are local bands who play rock in Spanish. There's a growing audience. When the kids here find out that the countries that their parents come from produce music that's as good as what's made in America, that produces a very strong emotional effect."
Soda Stereo performs with Aterciopelados on Friday, March 8, at the James L. Knight Center, 400 SE 2nd Ave; 372-0929. Showtime is 8:00. Tickets are $25, $32, and $37.